MSPs deal a further blow to named person scheme

Education secretary John Swinney has been the driving force behind the name person scheme
Education secretary John Swinney has been the driving force behind the name person scheme
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Controversial plans for a named person scheme have been hit by a major setback after a Holyrood committee warned it cannot approve the legislation as it stands.

The Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee has said it is unable to recommend parliamentary approval until ministers provide details of crucial guidance for professionals.

The Education Committee has called for the Scottish Government to provide “an authoritative draft” of the code of practice accompanying the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, before it recommends the Bill is passed at its first stage. The legislation was brought forward after a legal challenge to the named person policy, which will see a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, appointed to look out for the welfare of every child.

It aims to address the Supreme Court’s finding last year that information sharing provisions in the original legislation were incompatible with the right to privacy and family life as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It requires ministers to publish a code of practice for professionals on how information should be shared.

However, the committee was only provided with a draft and illustrative code, compiled without the necessary consultation - a move Education Secretary John Swinney admitted had “created some confusion and uncertainty amongst stakeholders”.

The committee heard evidence some professionals are “confused and nervous” about the information sharing aspect, with others warning against an “overly legalistic” code.

Committee convener James Dornan of the SNP wrote to Mr Swinney on the issue.

Mr Dornan wrote: “A number of organisations have highlighted how crucial the operation of the code is to the implementation of the bill.

“Indeed some organisations have suggested that their support for the bill is contingent upon the contents of the code.

“Based on the evidence heard to date, the majority of the committee do not consider that they are able to make a decision on whether to recommend that the general principles of the bill be approved at stage one until the Scottish Government has provided the committee with an authoritative draft of the code.”

The letter also seeks assurances from Mr Swinney on questions over whether “the Scottish Government sought to directly influence evidence to the committee”.

The issue was raised by Conservative member Oliver Mundell, and centres on meetings between the government and various organisations appearing before the committee.

The committee’s stance was welcomed by anti-named person campaigners,

Simon Calvert of No to Named Persons (NO2NP) said: “This is further evidence of the terrible handling of this policy. The committee has shown it will not have the wool pulled over its eyes and has bravely stood up to John Swinney.”